Fireside Chat: How to Tell a Good Ghost Story

Put your body into it. If you're talking about the Midnight Murderer who's "stalked these woods for the past 200 years," slump down as if you're hiding from him. If you're describing the ghost who terrorizes loud campers, you'd better talk in a whisper.

Get your audience to care about your story. Is it something that could happen to them? Is it a story that could have taken place "in these very woods?" Use your environment. Is there a graveyard in your story? Mention that the graveyard used to sit right on top of the very campground you're in.

Don't memorize it. Rohr says that it's important to know the "bones" of your story. These are the key characters and moments that keep the story moving forward. But when it comes to the details, he wants you to get creative. This allows you to be flexible in your storytelling. If an owl hoots or a twig snaps in the middle of your story, go with it.

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Give them a good ending. "The ending [of a ghost story] is the release of an intense emotion," says Rohr. There's nothing worse than building up the intensity only to have it fall flat at the end. The release can be anything from an exhale to a scream.

Rohr says it can also be a laugh.

His voice lowers as he launches into another story: "There's one about a guy who keeps calling a babysitter saying things like 'I am the Viper and I'm coming to your house.' The babysitter locks the doors and tells him to stop calling but the phone keeps ringing and ringing?and ringing...and ringing. And every time she picks it up she hears the same thing: 'I am the Viper and I'm coming to your house?"

Eventually, the doorbell rings and when she looks through the peephole she sees a little old German man with a bucket and squeegee who says, "I am the viper and I've come to vipe the vindows."

The babysitter story may have ended well, but what about the Midnight Murderer?

Maybe you can answer that one the next time you're sitting around a campfire.

To learn more about Brian Rohr, or to hear him tell a story, visit

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